Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves speaks at Rotary

Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves was the speaker during Monday's Rotary program. (Photo by Mary Rumore, SDN)
Staff Writer

Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves was the guest speaker during the Starkville Rotary Club’s weekly meeting on Monday afternoon.

"I firmly believe that our state government's number one priority should be job creation, bringing better and higher paying jobs to our state," Reeves said. "I have a political philosophy that says government does not create jobs. Government's role is to create an environment that encourages those in the private sector to invest capitol and create jobs."

Reeves said there were three main priorities to encouraging economic growth in the state.

Reeves said the first key point to seeing longterm economic growth and prosperity is that Mississippi must have a fiscally responsible government.

"We are focused on operating our government in a fiscally productive manner," he said. "The key component is that we aren't going to spend money we don't have."

Reeves said the state has a truly balanced budget this year and a little over $300 million in a rainy day fund in case of natural or fiscal disasters.

The second priority Reeves mentioned is the state must have a fair and flat tax code that encourages economic development.

According to Reeves, inventory tax and corporate franchise tax made Mississippi less competitive because all surrounding states do not have those taxes.

Reeves said manufacturers looking to start a new business in the state would have to pay a corporate franchise tax that they wouldn't have to pay in other states in the Southeast, and the cost of doing business is higher because of those taxes.

"That's the reason why we've led the charge to, in a responsible way over time, eliminate both the inventory tax and the corporate franchise tax," he said.

Reeves said the largest tax cut in Mississippi, the Taxpayer Pay Raise Act, which passed a couple years ago, will also reduce individual income taxes on every taxpayer in the state.

The third key Reeves highlighted involved improving economic growth in Mississippi is improving the educational attainment level of state citizens.

"Ten to 15 years ago, when businesses were looking to locate in various states, the first question they asked is 'what kind of incentives do you offer?'" Reeves said. "They no longer ask that first. Today, the first thing every potential employer and current employer says is 'tell me about your workforce.'"

Reeves said in the past, people were out looking for jobs, but today jobs are out looking for people, and there are 48,000 jobs in the state posted online that are unfilled.

Reeves said he believed education starts at pre-K and goes through life-long learning.

"This year, we spent just under $400 million more on public education than was spent the year before I became lieutenant governor,” he said.

The state has worked for school district consolidation, Reeves said, and there were previously 152 districts statewide and now there are 139 districts.

"We believe the best way for every kid in Mississippi to get a quality education is to have a quality teacher in every classroom, and the best way to have a quality teacher in every classroom is to spend more money in the classroom and less money in the district office," Reeves said.

Reeves also pointed to an increase in the graduation rate of students with special needs from 25 percent to 35 percent after a new scholarship program allows those students to move to a different school better suited to their needs. Education savings accounts have also been implemented for students with special needs and dyslexia.

Reeves said reading levels of third graders in the state have improved since the Third Grade Literacy Promotion Act was passed.

After third grade, Reeves said students should be reading to learn and not learning to read.

According to Reeves, the first year, 85 percent of students passed the test on the first try, and last year, which was the second year, 92 percent passed the test on the first try.

Reeves said there has also been an increase in high school graduation rates throughout the state. In 2010, national high school graduation rate was 82.3 percent, while Mississippi was 70.5 percent. Last year, the national graduation rate was 83.2 percent, and Mississippi was just over 82 percent.

"2017 is Mississippi's bicentennial," Reeves said. "We've been a state for 200 years. Mississippi has a very challenging and complicated history, but I believe in this, in our 200th year, Mississippians need to spend less time apologizing and spend more time bragging about the good things going on, and there are a lot of good things."